By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Deniz Kilicli probably shouldn’t go into public relations when his career as a West Virginia basketball player is over.
He tells the truth too often.
In fact, he might even be more truthful about this West Virginia team that lost the 183rd renewal of the Backyard Brawl, 72-66, before 13,032 raucous fans in the Coliseum on Monday night than his coach, Bob Huggins.
And Huggins tells it like it is.
“Personally, I’d like to punch some stuff right now,” he said in the quiet of the interview area. “I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to do anything.”
He felt he had let the team down. Most of his teammates also felt the same way themselves, not quite being able to understand how they had lost to St. John’s, then been robbed at Syracuse and now come home and lost to Pitt in a game that, quite truthfully, they could have won if they had been as tough as the Final Four team of a couple of years ago or the Pittsnogle-Gansey-Herber et al team John Beilein took to the Elite Eight.
“We could have beaten St. John’s. We could have beaten Syracuse. We could have beaten Pitt. We didn’t. If anyone feels that we couldn’t have won those games they shouldn’t be on this team,” he said.
It is sometimes difficult to figure out why things go wrong for this edition of the Mountaineers. Certainly Huggins had got them back sky high after the Syracuse loss, as he promised he would. They came out and played a great 11 minutes before disappearing from view, going more than seven minutes without a field goal, letting a double-digit lead melt into what would be a four-point halftime deficit.
Pitt point guard Tray Woodall, out 11 of 12 games with a serious abdominal injury, took it upon himself to see that WVU could not run away and hide. At halftime he had scored 16 of the 22 points he would score in the game, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to make the lead four points.
His scoring surprised WVU, considering the word was his return would free Ashton Gibbs from the point and allow him to score more. Woodall, in fact, had scored 21 points in his first three games back, then 24 in this game.
“He destroyed us, absolutely destroyed us,” Huggins said.
WVU, you see, can’t match that, as Kilicli would note.
“Since Da’Sean (Butler), we don’t have a guy who
creates,” he said. “K.J. gets his off rebounds and passes. We have to work to get our shots.”
In truth, WVU doesn’t shoot well at all. And Kilicli admits that includes him.
“I was horrible,” he said, grabbing a stat sheet that showed him hitting 6 of 13 field goal attempts.
That may sound decent, but Huggins put it another way.
“He goes 6 for 13 from 2 feet and that’s after going 2 for 10 at Syracuse,” he said. “We went to him. He has to finish.”
Pitt took advantage of so many things in this game, seemingly getting every loose ball and benefiting because WVU was shorthanded up front, redshirt freshman Kevin Noreen fracturing his left ankle with 4:23 left in the first half.
He is out for the year.
Pitt slowly widened its lead in the second half until it reached 10 points, with the help of a technical assessed Bob Huggins when he was yelling at Truck Bryant and the official thought he said something other than Truck and had directed it at him.
That’s when WVU began fighting its way back in.
Kevin Jones, who would have yet another double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds, did his thing down the stretch, Kilicli grabbing off most of his nine rebounds while playing inspired defense and the freshman guards Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne battling while Bryant was scoring 14 with five rebounds.
WVU managed to cut the lead to 3 points at 59-56 with 4:49 to play, but they could never get it any closer as Pitt continued to gobble up every loose ball and make key shots, then free throws.
The Mountaineers are now off until going to Providence to face a Friar team that is 12-9 but 1-8 and last in the Big East. Huggins is giving them two days off.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.
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